Umbria, is a landlocked region which, due to its geographical location and climate, makes it easy to understand why it is also referred to as “the green heart of Italy”.
Indeed as one travels across its hills and plains, one marvels about the beautiful rolling hills depicting , regardless of the season, various shades of green, projecting an image of a beautiful green, velvet mantle. A landscape that looks so perfect, one might even think it is a beautiful painting.
Thanks to such beauty and strategic location, Umbria attracted pilgrims, artists and invaders from every corner of the continent-from the original Umbrians, to the Etruscans, Romans, Longobards, Napoleon and its most famous, religious icon, St. Francis of Assisi.
With the barbarian invasions and the destruction that followed the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Umbria shared the destiny of the rest of Italy, whereby the beautiful flourishing cities were plundered and destroyed, forcing its inhabitants to take refuge in the mountains.
Indeed this flight to higher ground was echoed by Pope Pius II Piccolomini who, in 1462, when speaking about Umbria’s landscape and urban planning said: “You will never be able to reach an Umbrian town without climbing”.
This is the reason why, while traveling across Umbria, it is a common sight to see villages and towns perched high up on hilltops, within massive and imposing protective “walls”
Today, although one does not need to climb on foot to reach Umbrian towns, it is not always possible to reach them by car. One such example is Orvieto, which one can only reach by cable car or by escalators that connect the lower part of the town, to its magnificent town center.
Modern-day Orvieto is a perfect microcosm of the region, is indeed one of the most perfect examples of Umbria’s gastronomic and cultural bounty. With very little effort in fact, one can enjoy it all while leisurely strolling through its quaint streets, thus reaching its famous and exquisite Duomo. Other priceless works of art can be viewed in the the Museo Opera del Duomo, the Cappella di San Brizio as well as Chiesa di San Francesco, depicting works from among others, Fra Angelico and Luca Signorelli. Also not to be missed are the architectural marvels Pozzo di San Patrizio (c1527); Pozzo della Cava, just to name a few.
Orvieto’s appreciation for good food, good wine and the good life, made it a top contender to be nominated by the Slow Food movement as a “Citta` Slow”- the “Citta`Slow (slow town) is actually is an international network of over 140 towns in 20 countries across the world that have committed to adopt a set of common goals and principles aimed at enhancing the quality of life for its residents and visitors.
Apart from the food and wine connection, Slow Cities support their local businesses, foster local traditions, protect the environment, welcome visitors, and encourage active participation in community life thus they are great places to live, work and visit.
It is no wonder then, that for the last nineteen years, Orvieto has hosted Umbria Jazz Winter , an annual jazz festival that runs from late December through New Year’s Eve. Daily excursions to food & wine producers, art cities such as Perugia, Spoleto, Assisi, Todi and Deruta and a Gospel Choir concert at the Duomo, on New Year’s Day, make Orvieto a perfect destination for a winter holiday.
Tune in next time for more on Umbria’s art cities, food and wine.
Umbrian recipe-perfect for chilly, autumn weather:
Pasta with Lentils
10 oz. lentils
2 cloves garlic
1 celery stalk
1 ripe tomato, coarsely chopped
5 oz. spaghetti
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Check the lentils for dirt particles. Soak the lentils for at least 12 hours, discarding the ones that float on the surface. Cook the lentils in 2 qts. cold water, add crushed clove of garlic, tomato, and chopped celery stalk and cook slowly until lentils are done. Add salt, pepper and broken up spaghetti (about 1-1 1/2-in. long) and cook till al dente. Remove from fire; add olive oil, mix well, season and serve.
Anna Maria was born and raised in Torino, Italy but has resided in the United States most of her adult life, living in Millburn/Short Hills for the last thirty years.
Her extensive professional experience in the travel industry has made her uniquely qualified to create programs that are well balanced, interesting and meticulously planned.
Anna Maria’s innate knowledge of her native country’s food, wines and cultural heritage provides further awareness which is crucial for making choices that incorporate experiences that are part of the day-to-day Italian life and provide opportunities to experience life as it’s savored and lived by the Italians.
Whatever the occasion for travel, allow Shop Wine and Dine to plan your oenogastronomic adventure and see Italy through the eyes of a real Italian, whose love for her native country will surely be infectious and enrich you for the rest of your life!
Anna Maria Sorrentino
Shop Wine and Dine
P.O. Box 415
Short Hills NJ 07078